The Great Pumpkin
Three Octobers ago, I took a pumpkin cooking class taught by Michael Krondl, author of The Great Little Pumpkin Cookbook. While the web and magazine world abounds with ridiculously good sweet, desserty pumpkin recipes, there’s a surprising lack of good savory recipes that feature pumpkin. (Frankly, even the vast majority of savory butternut squash recipes published online and in cookbooks are limited to soups and risottos in the same few flavor combos: with nutmeg, apple and/or sage). Globally, pumpkin stars in savory entrees in a variety of cuisines, including Sichuan Chinese (our local place does an amazing shredded pumpkin with spicy green peppers), Afghan, Indian and Persian.
The unfortunate absence of savory pumpkin recipes in our country’s food circuit makes Krondl’s book an indispensable (and cheap) little reference guide for those of you who have savory designs on your pumpkin: his fantastic recipes feature flavor pairings from pumpkin-chipotle to pumpkin-chestnut to pumpkin-pecorino. With his permission, I am sharing his recipe (below) for Sweet & Sour South Indian Pumpkin to enable you to dip your proverbial toe into the savory orange waters.
Picking a pumpkin
When picking a pumpkin to cook with, you’ll need to use different criteria than when picking one for Jack-O-Lantern purposes. The big ol’ carving pumpkins have very little flesh and lack flavor; however, you can most certainly save their seeds, toss them in a bit of oil and salt and toast them in your toaster oven for a resourceful little snack. For cooking, look for the little round ones called “sugar pumpkins” or just “pie pumpkins.” Alternatively, you can use calabaza squash/”cheese pumpkins”: they’re the beige ones that look like butternut squashes shaped like pumpkins. In a pinch, a kabocha squash/”Japanese pumpkin” works great, too; that’s the one that looks like a dark green pumpkin. See the note below on how to peel a pumpkin; don’t be intimidated… it’s not as hard as you might think, so long as you have a good chef’s knife.
Hooray for Vitamin A
Pumpkin, like all winter squashes, is a stellar source of Vitamin A. It also contains high amounts of Vitamin C and potassium, which helps control high blood pressure. 1 cup of (raw) cubed pumpkin, which will cook down to slightly less volume, contains a mere 30 calories, 7.5g is carbohydrate (of which ~1.0g is fiber), 61% of the daily value for Vitamin A, 17% of the daily value for vitamin C, and 11% of the daily value for potassium. And yes, even pumpkin eaten in the form of pumpkin pie is likely to meet most of your daily Vitamin A requirements, assuming it was made with 100% pumpkin puree instead of “pumpkin pie filling.” Furthermore, since Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, you can tell yourself that the dollop of whipped cream on top of your pie is nutritionally expedient to ensure proper absorption of the vitamin. While Vitamin A is best known for its important role in maintaining vision, it also plays an important role in immunity (arguably more so than does Vitamin C); dietary vitamin A is converted into an active form that can enter into the DNA of immune cells and positively influence their ability to produce antibodies–as well as the ability of certain infection-fighting white blood cells to replicate. So far, studies have shown that Vitamin A therapy in deficient children can reduce the severity of measles and diarrhea; alas, it has not been shown to have the same effect on respiratory infections like, say, the swine flu.
Recipe: Sweet & Sour South Indian Pumpkin (from The Great Little Pumpkin Cookbook, Michael Krondl, published by Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA). Reprinted with permission from the author.
1 TBSP ground coriander
1 tsp chopped fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 TBSP canola oil
2 lbs pumpkin, peeled* and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (about 6 cups)
2 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP light brown sugar
1 TBSP chopped cilantro
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a small bowl, combine the ground coriander, ginger, garlic, cayenne and black pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole over medium heat until hot. Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring until it turns very aromatic, about 1 minute. Do not burn! Immediately add the pumpkin and stir to coat with the spices. Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp salt and cover. Set in the oven and bake until the pumpkin is just barely tender, about 25 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pumpkin pieces. Set the pan over medium-high heat, stir in the lemon juice and cook, uncovered, for 1 minute.
- Stir in the brown sugar and cook 3-4 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the juices are syrupy. Add the pumpkin and toss. Season with more salt & pepper to taste.
- Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve.
Serves 4 (generously) as a side dish.
Approximate nutrition info per serving: 170 calories, 20g carbohydrate (of which ~1g is fiber), 10g fat.
* How to peel a pumpkin
Krondl further explains: “the easiest way to peel a pumpkin, or any hard-skinned winter squash, is to cut it in half and scoop out the seeds and all the stringy bits. Then cut the pumpkin into 2- to 3-inch slices. Place these cut side down on a cutting board and use a large sharp knife to cut away the skin. Store cut-up pumpkin up to 4 days in the refrigerator.”Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.